WASHINGTON, Nov. 15 (JTA) — One interesting twist for Jewish voters that has nothing to do with Bill Bradley’s voting records or policy papers is his wife, Ernestine Schlant.
The German-born Schlant is a professor of German and comparative literature at Montclair State University in New Jersey. If Bradley is elected president, she would be the first naturalized citizen to become first lady.
Democratic activists in both the Bradley and Gore camps said they do not believe Schlant’s background has become — or should become — an issue during the presidential race.
Schlant’s recent book, “The Language of Silence: West German Literature and the Holocaust,” argues that postwar German writers gave short shrift to the Holocaust and the experiences of the Jews. She was born in the Bavarian town of Passau, where Hitler lived for a time as a child and was the site of three Nazi forced labor camps.
Schlant’s father, Sepp Misslbeck, served in a support role for the German air force and was not associated with the Nazi Party, Bradley writes in his 1996 memoir. Schlant’s mother, Erna, spoke out against the Nazis during a movie theater newsreel showing German defeats in the spring of 1944 and was almost taken away, but was spared because she was pregnant, according to Bradley’s account.
Misslbeck was briefly held by the Allies before it was determined that he was not associated with the Nazis. After the war, he was encouraged to enter local government by the Allies because those linked to the Nazis were barred from holding office.
He formed his own party — the Independent Voters — that focused on improving local government in Ingolstadt, where he eventually became mayor.